Alexander von Humboldt.

The travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt online

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THE



TRAVELS AND RESEARCHES



ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT,



W. MACGILLIVRAY, LL.D., F.R.S.'E.,

Professor of Natural History in Marischal College and University of Aberdeen.



WITH A NARRATIVE



HUMBOLDT'S MOST RECENT RESEARCHES,



INXLUDING



HIS CELEBRATED JOUBNET TO THE URAL MOLTS'TAIN'S,

AND THE CASPIAN SEA, ETC.



LONDON:

T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW;

EDINBURGH ; AND NEW YORK.



KSIVERSn Y OV CALIFORNH
6AM A BAHBAilA



PREFACE.



The celebrity which Baron Humboldt enjoys, and
which he has earned by a life of laborious investigation
and perilous enterprise, renders his name familiar to
eveiy person whose attention has been drawn to political
statistics or natural philosophy. In the estimation of
the learned no author of the present day occupies a
higher place among those who have enlarged the
boundai'ies of human knowledge. To every one accord-
ingly whose aim is the general cultivation of the mental
faculties, his works are recommended by the splendid
pictures of scener}'- which they contain, the diversified
information which they afford respecting objects of uni-
versal interest, and the graceful attractions with which
he has succeeded in investing the majesty of science.

These considerations have induced the Publishers to
offer a condensed account of his Travels and Researches,
such as, without excluding subjects even of laboured
investigation, might yet chiefly embrace those which
are best suited to the purposes of the general reader.
The public taste has of late years gradually inclined
towards objects of useful knowledge, — works of imagi-
nation have in a great measure given place to those
occupied with descriptions of nature, physical or moral,
— and the phenomena of the material world now afford
entertainment to many who in former times would have
sought for it at a different source. Romantic incidents,
perilous adventures, the struggles of conflicting armies,



6 PHEFACE.

and vivid delineations of national manners and indivi-
dual character, naturally excite a lively interest in
every bosom, whatever may be the age or sex ; but,
surely, the great focts of creative power and wisdom, as
exhibited in regions of the globe of which they have no
personal knowledge, are not less calculated to iix the
attention of all reflecting minds. The magnificent
vegetation of the tropical regions, displaying forests of
gigantic trees, interspersed with the varied foliage of in-
numerable shrubs, and adorned with festoons of climbing
and odoriferous plants ; the elevated table-lands of the
Andes, crowned by volcanic cones, whose summits shoot
high into the region of perennial snow ; the earthquakes
that have desolated populous and fertile countries ; the
vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, with its circling
currents ; and the varied aspect of the heavens in those
distant lands, — are subjects suited to the taste of every
individual who is capable of contemplatmg the wonder-
ful machinery of the universe.

It is unnecessiiry here to present an analysis of the
labours of the illustrious philosopher whose footsteps are
traced in this volume. Suffice it to observe, that some
notices respecting his early life introduce the reader to
an acquaintance with his character and motives, as the
adventurous traveller, who, crossing the Atlantic, tra-
versed the ridges and plains of Venezuela, ascended the
Qrinoco to its junction with the Amazon, sailed down
the former river to the capital of Guiana, and after
examining the Island of Cuba mounted by the valley of
the Magdalen a to the elevated platforms of the Andes,
explored the majestic solitudes of the great Cordilleras
of Quito, navigated the margin of the Pacific Ocean, and
wandered over the extensive and interesting provinces
of New Spain, wjience he made his way back by tliQ



PREFACE. 7

United States to Europe. The publication of the im-
portant results of this journey was not completed when
he undertook another to Asiatic Russia and the confines
of China, from which he has but lately returned.

From the various works which he has given to the
world have been derived the chief materials of this nar-
rative ; and, when additional particulars were wanted ,
application was made to M. de Humboldt himself, who
kindly pointed out the sources whence the desired in-
formation might be obtained. The life of a man of letters,
he justly observed, ought to be sought for in his books ;
and for this reason little has been said respecting his
occupations during the intervals of repose which have
succeeded his perilous journeys.

It is only necessary further to apprize the reader, that
the several measurements, the indications of the ther-
mometer, and the value of articles of industry or
commerce, which in the original volumes are expressed
according to French, Spanish, and Russian usage, have
been reduced to English equivalents.

Finally, the Publishers, confident that this abridged
account of the travels of Humboldt will prove beneficial
in diflFusing a knowledge of the researches of that
eminent naturalist, and in leading to the study of those
phenomena which present themselves daily to the eye,
send it forth with a hope that its reception will be as
favourable and extensive as that bestowed upon its
predecessors.

Edinburgh, October 1832.



This edition of Professor Macgillivray's valuable narrative of
the journey and researches of Baron Humboldt, is now ex-
tended so as to embrace his more recent labours, including
his celebrated journey to the Ural Mountains, and his explora-



8 PREFACE.

tion of the Altaiau range, and tlie Caspian Sea. It also em-
braces a sketch of the profound philosophical speculations sug-
gested by the phenomena observed in the Asiatic continent,
and published to the world both in his " Central Asia," and his
more recent " Kosinos."

Enlarged as this work now is by such necessary and valu^
able additions, the publisher confidently anticipates for it a
still more favourable reception, and extended popularity, than
it commanded in its original form,

ECLXBL'ROll. June IS^L



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

INTRODDCTIOX.

Birth and Education of Humboldt — His early Occupations—He
resolves to visit At'rica— Is disappointed in his Views, and goes
to Madrid, where he is introduced to the Kin^, and obtains Per-
mission to visit the Spanish Colonies — Observations made on the
Journey through Spain — Geological Constitution of the Country
between Madrid and Corunna — Climate — Ancient Submersion of
the Shores of the Mediterranean— Reception at Corunna, and
Preparations for the Voyage to South America, Page 17

CHAPTER II.

VOYAGE FROM CORUNNA TO TENERIFFE.

Departure from Corunna — Currents of the Atlantic Ocean — Ma-
rine Animals — Falling Stars — Swallows — Canary Islands — Lan-
cerota — Fucus vitifolius — Causes of the Green Colour of Plants
— La Graciosa — Stratified Basalt alternating with Marl — Hya-
lite — Quartz Sand — Remarks on the Distance at which Mountains
are visible at Sea, and the Causes by which it is modified— Land-
ing at TenerifFe, 24

CHAPTER TIL

ISLAND OF TENERIFFE.

Santa Cruz — Villa de la Laguna — Guanches — Present Inhabitants
of TenerifFe — Climate — Scener}' of the Coast — Orotava — Dragon-
tree — Ascent of the Peak — Its Geological Character — Eruptions
— Zones of Vegetation — Fires of St John, 37



10 CONTENTS.



CHAPTER IV.

PASSAGE FROM TENERIFFE TO CUMANA.

Departure from Santa Cruz— Floatinjr Seaweeds— Flying-fish—
Stars — Mali^mant Fever— Island of Tobajjo— Death of a Pas-

sen^r Island of Coclie— Port of Cumana — Observations made

durinj^ the Voyage; Temperature of the Air; Temperature of
the Sea ; Hygrometrical State of the Air ; Colour of the Sky and
Ocean, Paj^e 40

CHAPTER V.



Landing at Cumana — Introduction to the Governor — State of the
Sick — Description of the Country and Citj' of Cumana — Mode of
Bathing in the Manzanares — Port of Cumana — Earthquakes ;
Their Periodicity ; Connexion with the State of the Atmosphere;
Gaseous Emanations ; Subterranean Noises ; Propagation of
Sliocks ; Connexion between those of Cumana and the West In-
dies ; and General Phenomena, CO



CHAPTER VI.

RESIDENCE AT CUMANA.

Lunar Halo— African Slaves — Excursion to the Peninsula of Araya
— Geological Constitution of the Country — Salt-works of Araya
— Indians and Muiattoes — Pearl-fishery — Maniquarez Mexi-
can Deer— Spring of Naphtha, 68

CHAPTER VII.

MISSIONS OF THE CHAYMAS.

Kzcursion to the Missions of the Cliayma Indians— Remarks on
Cultivation— Tlie Impossible— Aspect of the Vegetation San



COM'EMS. J 1

Fernando — Account of a Man who suckled a Child — Curaanacoa
— Cultivation of Tobacco — lyneous Exhalations — Jaguars —
Mountain of Cocollar — Turimi(juiri — Missions of San Antonio
and Guanaguana, Page 75



CHAPTER Vlir,

EXCtTHSION CONTINUED, AND RETURN TO CUMANA.

Convent of Caripe — Cave of Guacharo, inhabited by Noctinnal
Birds— Purgatory — Forest Scenery — Howling Monkeys — Vera
Cruz — Cariaco — Intermittent Fevers — Cocoa-trees — Passage
across the Gulf of Cariaco to Cumana, i)7

CHAPTER IX.

INDIANS or NEW ANDALUSIA.

Physical Constitution and Manners of tlie Chaymas — Their Lan-
guages — American Races, it?

CHAPTER X.

RESIDENCE AT CUJIANA.

Residence at Cumana— Attack of a Zambo— Eclipse of the Sun —
Extraordinary Atmospherical Phenomena — Shocks of an Earth-
quake — Luminous Meteors, •1^''

CHAPTER XL

VOYAGE FR03I CUMANA TO GUAYRA-

Passage from Cumana to La Guayra— PhospLorescence of the Sea-
Group of the Caraccas and Chimanas— Port of New Barcelona-
La Guayra— Yellow fever— Coast and Cape Blanco— Road irom
La Guayra to Caraccas, ''"'



12 CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XII.

CITY OF CARACCAS AND SURROUNDING DISTRICT.

City of Caraccas — General View of Venezuela — Population — Cli-
mate — Character of the Inhabitants of Caraccas — Ascent of the
Silla— Geological Nature of the District, and the Mines,.. Page 12.5

CHAPTER XIII.

EARTHQUAKES OF CARACCAS.

Extensive Connexion of Earthquakes — Eruption of the Volcano of
St Vincent's— Eartliquake of the 2()lh Marcli 1812— Destruc-
tion of the City — Ten Tliousand of the Inhabitants killed. — Con-
sternation of the Survivors — Extent of the Commotions, 13

CHAPTER XIV.

JOURNEY FROM CARACCAS TO THE LAKE OF VALENCIA.

Departure frnm Caraccas — La Biienavista — Valleys of San Pedro
and the Tuy — Manterola — Zamang-tree — Valleys of Aragua —
I ake of Valencia — Diminution of its Waters — Hot Springs —
Jaguar — New Valencia — Thermal Waters of La Trincliera —
Porto Cahcllo — Cow-tree — Cocoa-plantations — General View of
the Littoral District of Venezuela, 144

CHAPTER XV.

JOURNEY ACROSS THE LLANOS FROM ARAGUA TO SAN
KEH.S'ANDO.

Mountains hclwcen the Valleys of Aragua and the Llanos — Their
Geological Constitution — The Llanos of Caraccas — Koute over
the Savannah to tiie Rio .\pure— Cattle and Deer— Vegetation
— CalalK)zo_Gymnoti or Electric Eels— Indian Girl — Alligators
and Boas — Arrival at San Fernando de A[)iire, 161



CO.NTENTS. 13



CHAPTER XVI.

VOYAGE DOWN THE IllO APUBE.

San Fernando— Commencement of tlie Rainy Season — Progress nf
Atmospherical Phenomena — Cetaceous Animals — Voyaj^e down
the Rio Apure — Vegetation and Wild Animals — Crocodiles,
Chiguires, and Jaguars— Don Ignacio and Donna liiabella —
Water-fowl — Nocturnal Howlings in the Forest — Caribe-fish
— Adventure with a Jaguar — Manatees — Mouth of the Rio
Apure,." Page 17"»



CHAPTER XVII.

VOYAGE UP THE ORIKOCO.

Ascent of the Orinoco — Port of Encararaada — Traditions of a Uni-
versal Deluge — Gathering of Turtles' Eggs — Two Species de-
scribed — Mode of collecting the Eggs and of manufacturing the
Oil — Probable Number of these Animals on the Orinoco — Deco-
rations of the Indians — Encampment of Paraniraa — Height of
the Inundations of the Orinoco — Rapids of Tabage, I'JO



CHAPTER XVIII.

VOYAGE UP THE ORINOCO CONTINUED.

Mission of Atures — Epidemic Fevers — Black Crust of Granitic
Rocks^Causes of Depopulation of the INlissions — Falls of Apures
— Scenery — Anecdote of a Jaguar — Domestic Animals — Wild
Man of the Woods — Mosquitoes and other poisonous Insects —
Mission and Cataracts of Maypures. — Scenery — Inhabitants —
Spice-trees — San Fernando de Atabapo — San Baltasar — The
Mother's Rock — Vegetation — Dolphins — San Antonio de Javita
— Indians — Elastic Gum — Serpents — Portage of the Pimichin —
Arrival at the Rio Negro, a Branch of the Amazon — Ascent ot
the Casiquiare, 20P



1 4 CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XIX.

ROUTE FROM ESMERALDA TO AXGOSTURA.

Mission of Esmeralda — Ciirare Poison — Indians — Dnida Moun-
tain —Descent of the Orinoco — Cave of Ataniipe — Raudalito of
Carucari — Mission of Uruana'— Character of the Otomacs^
Clav eaten bj- tlie Natives — Arrival at Anj^ostura — The Travel-
lers attacked by Kever — Ferocity of the Crocodiles Page 233



CHAPTER XX.

JOURNEV ACROSS THE LLANOS TO NEW BARCELONA.

Departure from Angostura — Village of Cari — Natives — Nevp Bar-
celona — Hot Springs — Crocodiles — Passage to Curaana, 246



( IIAPTER XXI.

PASSAGE TO IJAVAXNAH, AND RESIDENCE IN CUBA.

Passage from New Barcelona to Havannah — Description of the
latter — Extent of Cuba — Geological Constitution — Vegetation —
Climate — Population — Agriculture — Exports — Preparations for
joining Captain Baudin's Expedition — Journey to Batabano, and
Voyage to Trinidad de Cuba, 254



( IIAPTKH XXII.

VOYAGE IltOM CIBA TO CAHTIIAGENA.

Passage from Trinidad of Cuba to Carthagena — Description of the
latter — Village of Turbaco— Air-volcanoes — Preparations for
anccnding the Hio Magdalena 2f)4



CONTENTS. 1 5



CHAPTER XXIII.

BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE JOURNEY FROM CARTHAGENA
TO QUITO AND MEXICO.

vAscent of the Rio Magdalena — Santa Fe de Bogota — Cataract of
Tequendama — Natural Bridges of Icononzo — Passage of Quin-
diu — Cargueros — Popaj'an — Quito — Cotopaxi and Chimborazo —
Route from Quito to Lima^Guayaquil — Mexico — Guanaxuato —
Volcano of Jorullo — Pyramid of Cholula, Page 276



CHAPTER XXIV.

DESCRIPTION OF NEW SPAIN OR MEXICO.

General Description of New Spain or Mexico— Cordilleras — Cli-
mates — Mines — Rivers — Lakes — Soil — Volcanoes — Harbours -
Population — Provinces — Valley of Mexico, and Description of
the Capital — Inundations, and Works undertaken for the Purpose
of preventing them, 293

CHAPTER XXV.

STATISTICAI. ACCOUNT OF NEW SPAIN CONTINUED.

Agriculture of Mexico— Banana, Manioc, and Maize— Cereal
Plants — Nutritive Roots and Vegetables — Agave Americana —
Colonial Commodities — Cattle and Animal Productions, 320

CHAPTER XXVI.

MINES OF NEW SPAIN.

Mining' Districts — Metalliferous Veins and Beds — Geological Re-
lations of the Ores — Produce of the Mines — Recapitulation.. .333



J CONTENTS.



CHAPTER xxvrr.

I'ASSAOE FHOM VERA CHUZ TO LLDA AXU PHILADELPHIA,
AKD VOYAGE TO EUROPE.

Departure from Mexico — Passage to Havannah and Philadelphia —
Return to Europe — Results of tlie Journeys in America,.- Page 342



CHAPTER XXVIII.

JOURNEY IN CENTRAL ASIA.

Qualifications as a Traveller — Great Designs — Invitation by the
Emperor of Russia — Uralian Mountains — Ores — Volcanic
Phenomena — Geological Observations — The Chinese Frontier
— Relations of Plains and Mountain Systems— Depth of the
Sea — Climatology — Ethnology — Altaic Mountain Range — Thian
Clian — Himalaya System — Lunar Phenomena — Isothermal
Zones — Magnetic Currents— Conclusion , S48



ENGRAVINGS.



Portrait of Bauon F. H. A. Humboldt,— 7*0 /ace f/ie

Vignette.
N'IGKETTE— Basaltic Rocks and Cascade of Rejila.

DrajTon-tree of Orotava, Pagi- 41!

HtiMilwidl's, Route on the Orinoco, ll."}

.laj^uar, or American Tiger, IIW

Air-volcanoes of Turbaco, 271

Costuraca of the Indians of Mcclioacan, 291



TEAVELS AND EESEAECHES

OF

BARON HUMBOLDT.



CHAPTER I.

Introduction.



Birth and Education of Humboldt — His early Occupations — He
resolves to visit Africa— Is disappointed in his Vievrs, and goes
to Madrid, where he is introduced to tlie King-, and obtains per-
mission to visit the Spanish Colonies — Observations made on the
Journey through Spain — Geological Constitution of the Country
between Madrid and Corunna — Climate — Ancient Submersion of
the Shores of the Mediterranean — Reception at Corunna, and
Preparations for the Voyage to South America.

With the name of Humboldt we associate all that is ciiAi' i
interesting in the physical sciences. No traveller who soiciuinc
has visited remote regions of the globe, for the purpose "ssociutiur
of observing the varied phenomena of nature, has added
so much to our stock of positive knowledge. While the
navigator has explored the coasts of unknown lands, dis-
covered islands and shores, marked the depths of the sea,
estimated the force of currents, and noted the more ob-
vious traits in the aspect of the countries at whix-di lie
has touched ; while the zoologist has investigated tlie
multiplied forms of animal life, the botanist the diversi-
fied vegetation, the geologist the structure and relations
of the rocky masses of which the exterior of the
earth is composed ; and while each has thus contributed



in HIRTII AND EDUCATION OF HUMBOLDT.

CiiAl'. L to the illiistnUion of the wonderful constitution of our
,.j^.~,~, planet, the distin.suished traveller whose discoveries
kiiuwifUije. form the suhject of this volume stands alone, as uniting
in himself a knowledge of all these sciences. Geography,
meteorology, magnetism, the distribution of heat, the
various ilepartmeiits of natural history, together with
the affinities of races and languages, the history of na-
tions, tiie political constitution of countries, statistics,
commerce, and agriculture, — all have received accumu-
lated and valuable additions from the exercise of his rare
talents. The narrative of no traveller therefore could be
more interesting to the man of varied information. But
as from a work like that of which the present volume
constitutes a jiart subjects strictly scientific must be
excluded, unless when they can be treated in a manner
intelligible to the public at large, it may here be stated.
that many of the investigations, of which we present
the results, must be traced in the voluminous works
which the author himself has jmblished. At the same
Plnn of il.<- time enough will l)e given to gratify the scientific reader ;
**"'" and while the narrative of personal adventure, the phe-

noma of tiie ])hysical world, the condition of societies,
and the numerous other subjects di^cu;-sed, will afford
amu>ement and instruction, let it be remembered, that
truths faithfully extracted from tlie Imok of nature are
alone calculated to enlarge tiie sjjhere of mental vision ;
and that, while fanciful descriptidu is more apt to mis-
lead tlian to direct tiie footstej)s of the student, there is
reflected from llu' actual examination of tlie material
universe a light wlijeh never fails to conduct the mind
at once to f-ure knowledge and to pious sentiment.
i;lrtii r„-ni>- Frederick Henry Alexiinder Von Humboldt was born
nt IJerlin on the 14th of Septemljer 17fi9. He received
his academic edneiiti(tn at Gottingen and Frankfort on
tlie Oder. In 17'.>0 lie visited Holland and JMigland in'
company wiiji .Messrs George Forster and Van Geuns,
and in the mine year published his first work, entitled
" (JliservHtioiis on tiic Basalts of the Rhine." In IT'JI
he went to Fr.yberg to receive the instructions of the



HIS EARLV OCCUPATIONS. 19

celebrated Werner, tlie founder of geological science, chap, l
The results of some of his observations in tbe mines of
that district were published in ] 793, under tlie title of
Specimen F/orce Freibergensis Suhterranece.

Having been appointed assessor of the Council of Assessor-
Mines at Berlin in 1792, and afterwards director-gene- siiipof

couiicU of

ral of the mines of the principalities of Baireuth and mines.
Anspach in Franconia, he directed his efforts to the for-
mation of public establishments in these districts ; and
in 1795, he visited part of Ital}^ and Switzerland. His
active and comprehensive mind engaged in the study of
all the physical sciences ; but the discoveries of Galvani
seem at this period to have more particularly attracted
his attention. The results of his experiments on animal
electricity were published in 1796, with notes by Pro-
fessor Blumenbach. In 1795 he had gone to A'ienna, visit to
where he remained some time, ardently engaged in the Vienna,
study of a fine collection of exotic plants in that city.
He travelled through several cantons of Salzburg and
Styria with the celebrated Von Buch, but was prevented
by the war which then raged in Italy from extending
his journey to that country, whither he was anxious
to proceed for the purpose of examining the volcanic
districts of Naples and Sicily. Accompanied by his -po pans.
brother William Von Humboldt and Mr Fischer, he
then visited Paris, where he formed an acquaintance
with M. Aime Bonpland, a pupil of the school of Medi-
cine and Garden of Plants, who afterwards becoming his
associate in travel, has greatly distinguished himself by
his numerous discoveries in botany.

Humboldt, from his earliest youth, had cherished an Desire to
ardent desire to travel into distant regions little known '''^'^'
to Europeans, and, having at the age of eighteen re-
solved to visit the New Continent, he prepared himself
by examining some of the most interesting parts of
Europe, that he might be enabled to compare the geo-
logical structure of these two portions of the globe, and
acquire a practical acquaintance with the instruments
best adapted for aiding him in his observations. For-



20



PROPOSES TO VISIT AFRICA.



Pecuniary
It-sou rtcs.



Proposed
visit to

Egypt.



CHAP. I. tunatc in possessing ample pecuniary resources, he did
not experience tlic privations ^vllich have disconcerted
the i)hins and retarded the progress of many eminent
individuals ; but, not the less subject to unforeseen
vicissitudes, he had to undergo several disappointments
that thwarted tiie schemes \vhicli, like all men of ardent
mind, he had indulged himself in forming. Meeting
with a person passionately fond of the fine arts, and
anxious to visit Ui)per Egypt, he resolved to accompany
liim to that interesting country ; but political events
interfered and forced him to ab^mdon the project. The
kno\vlcdii:e of the monuments of the more ancient na-
tions of the Old World, which he acquired at this period,
was subsequently of great use to him in his researches
in the New Continent. An expedition of discovery to
the southern hemisphere under the direction of Captain
Baudiii, then preparing in France, and with which MM.
Michaux and Bonpland were to be associated as na-
turalists, held out to him the hope of gratifying his
desire of exploring unknown regions. But the war
Interference wliicli broke out in Germany and Italy compelled the
government to withdraw the funds allotted to this
cnterpi'ise. Becoming acquainted with a Swedish con-
sul who happened to pass through Paris with the view
of embarking at Marsiillcs on a mission to Algiers, he
resolved to embrace the opportunity thus offered of
visiting Africa, in order to examine the lofty chain of
mountains in the empire of f.Iorocco, and ultimately to
join the body of scientific men attached to the French
army in Kgypt. Accompanied by his friend Bonpland,
lie tiicrefore betook himself to Marseilles, where he
waited for two months the arrival of the frigate which
was to convey the consul to his destination. At length,
learning that this vessel had been injured by a storm,
lie resolved to p;us» the v.'inter in Spain, in hopes of
findiuL' another tiie following spring.



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